Realizing the Promise of Telehealth for Children

By: Mayra Alvarez, The Children’s Partnership, Debbie Chang, Nemours Children’s Health System & Deb Watson, Winter Park Health Foundation

On January 26, the room at GuideWell Innovation Center in Orlando was filled with pediatric providers, health centers, schools and school districts, school nurses, parents, child care centers, state government officials, national associations, non-profit advocacy organizations, health plans, and academic institutions. Convened by The Children’s Partnership, Nemours Children’s Health System, and  Winter Park Health Foundation, this diverse group of experts in children’s health traveled to Florida from thirteen different states to lay the groundwork for building a Roadmap for Action. Throughout the day, the group brainstormed on ways telehealth in school and child care settings can improve care and access for children.

As we prepared for the day, a key topic of conversation was the thriving school and child care telehealth programs in Delaware, Florida, New York, North Carolina, and Texas.  The telehealth programs across these 5 states are excellent models to examine because they have been able to improve access to care while lowering the rate of emergency department visits, missed school days, and missed work days for parents. These programs provide great insight in identifying factors that help overcome barriers and challenges. Some of these challenges include legal, technological, regulatory, and payment process. 

To address the barriers and identify clear pathways forward, we also broke out into smaller groups and tackled the following topics: establishing a program; establishing partnerships; determining coverage and measuring success. The lessons learned from these breakout sessions were simple: communicate, prepare, and commit. Practical considerations cannot be overlooked, either. For example, families must be aware of and able to understand the opportunity to utilize telehealth. We must also address concerns early on, and we must work closely with teachers, school nurses, and child care providers to appropriately integrate such services into their daily routines. By thinking through these and other issues in the planning phases, we can avoid roadblocks and establish effective, successful programs. These conversations are our first step in developing a Roadmap for Action which will help guide interested states and communities across the country to create, replicate, or expand successful school and child care telehealth programs.

We know that telehealth programs can flourish and they have the potential to positively impact children and families. In the coming months, we will release the Roadmap for Action and will look to our partners across the country to provide feedback and ultimately move forward with accelerating implementation. In the meantime, follow our progress by visiting us at @KidsPartnership, @Nemours, @WPHealthFDN, and @NORCNews on Twitter and Facebook. Together, we will advance the adoption of telehealth for children where they live, learn, and play.

 

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